Saturday, February 13, 2016

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I was fortunate enough to visit Mankato for this first time this year to watch the Vikings Friday practice. It is hard to take away a lot from a single practice, but there are a few key observations that I wanted to note.

Wide Receiver Depth

It’s not a secret that the Vikings are better suited at wide receiver than they have been in recent years. I liked what I saw from Mike Wallace from a route running perspective. He’ll be a big upgrade in my opinion over Greg Jennings and shouldn’t struggle to get down field separation. He did have a few drops today, but nothing that would create a ton of concern.

Beyond Wallace, Charles Johnson continues to have strong chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater and looked better with contested catches on the few opportunities he had to show off that skill.

Looking at Patterson, Wright, Thielen and Diggs, there is little doubt why Norv Turner has said they will carry 6 receivers on the final 53 man roster. The Vikings are deep and talented at the position, which should serve well as the season grinds on.

Offensive Line Ups and Downs

A large focal point for the team has to be improved play from this unit. In 1on1 drills, there were some ups and downs, but I think they played better than they have in previous practices. Matt Kalil struggled to contain Everson Griffen on a handful of plays, but nothing overly concerning.

New left guard Brandon Fusco makes a difference on the left side, if you ask me. There was a notable play where Fusco was able to help Bridgewater avoid a sack with the precesence to understand where the line might have collapsed. Fusco on the left side will improve the protection on Bridgewater’s blind side.

John Sullivan looked great and should continue to anchor the entire unit. New right guard Mike Harris impressed me with his play for a guy who is new to the position at the professional level. A converted swing tackle, Harris has a lot of size to stack next to Phil Loadholt. This should help as he works against defensive tackles who are larger than the defensive ends he was used to going up against.

Defensive Unity

There were several plays where the defensive coverage in the secondary was very good. Terence Newman held up well and I wanted to keep a close eye on that knowing the importance of his role on this team.

Anthony Barr looked much more comfortable in coverage compared to a year ago. He made a fantastic play on a ball intended for Charles Johnson. Barr, who was covering the flat, was able to use his size to jump high and bat down a pass that should have cleared the linebacker level.

Eric Kendricks took snaps with the first team in nickle situations with Barr. Seeing the NFL has become a nickle or sub package league due to the high percentage of passing, Kendricks should get plenty of snaps in the regular season if he can prove to be trusted in these situations.

Xavier Rhodes is impressive. That’s all there is to say about that really. Going against Wallace regularly, Rhodes was able to man up in impressive fashion and keep Wallace corralled for most of the practice.

Defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd will be a great tandem in 2015 and really create problems in 1on1 drills and in combined team drills.

Rookies Making an Impact…So Far

As I noted on twitter, Danielle Hunter seemed to be the go to pass rusher on nickle situations on the left side of the defense. I’m surprised that Hunter seems to have already surpassed Scott Crichton as 2nd on the depth chart.

Stephon Diggs made the play of the day in my opinion, making a really nice catch on a pass from quarterback Shaun Hill. Draped by cornerback Marcus Sherels at the goal line, Diggs made a nice catch on a contested pass.

Diggs also seems to be in the running for punt returner. He catches the ball well and seems confident with understanding where he is on the field and where defensive gunners are in relation to himself.

Trae Waynes seems to be hanging in there and has been seeing time with the 1st and 2nd teams. Waynes moved around between the slot and outside cornerback positions and kept nice coverage on the plays thrown his way. I think there is still a lot of room for improvement, but I was encourage by what I saw – given, it was a small sample size.

Looking to Tomorrow Night

All in all, Zimmer seems to have full command of this team and I’m excited to see what more time in training camp will do in preparation for the regular season.

The Vikings seem to have a lot of fun things planned for tomorrow evening to celebrate the 50th anniversary of training camp in Mankato. If you are free, I strongly urge you to consider visiting. It is a lot of fun and the Vikings put on a good show when they practice under the lights.

I’ll be back in Mankato on Sunday taking another look at the team. I’ll have more notes to come!

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Image courtesy of Chris Price

The Vikings have been in Mankato less than a week, and fans are already anxious to see where their favorite players sit on the team’s depth chart. After four training camp practices and this morning’s walkthrough session, Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff were expected to make a few changes to the roster, but things appear to be relatively the same as they were on Wednesday.

Thanks to Daniel House at Vikings Corner and Arif Hasan for the quick updates. I expect we’ll see a few changes in 11-on-11 during today’s afternoon practice:

Photo courtesy Ryan Cutler

I’ve consolidated a list of people you can expect to livetweet training camp, so it should be easier to follow along here if you don’t have a twitter account to get up to date with the comings and goings of camp. I will be updating every day or so the members of the list to most accurately reflect which members of the media will be there on that day (so, for example, Darren Wolfson of KSTP will not be there every day, but on days he is, he will be on the list below)

Hopefully this should make for an easy follow. If there’s every a player you want to know more about, don’t hesitate to tweet any member of the Vikings Territory staff! Follow them. There’s Adam, who heads up the main account, myself, Lindsey, AustinBrett, Brent, Carl and podcaster-in-residence Andy. Also be sure to check out Matt Engstrom’s feed, as he’s a phenomenal illustrator.

If you want a particularly in-depth look at or scouting report of a Vikings player, have a question about the scheme the Vikings use on offense or defense or if you want to know how to best watch the drills yourself, consider purchasing my training camp guide! You can check out a preview of it here, if you like. It will be a good way to follow along at camp if you hear about a player but you’re not entirely sure what they can bring. At the very least, it will help pass the time; at 50,000 words and over 120 pages, it should keep you occupied.

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Image courtesy of Chris Price

As part of the U.S. Bank’s Vikings Biggest Fan contest, I joined 100 lucky fans for the experience of a lifetime yesterday — touring U.S. Bank Stadium and attending Vikings Training Camp in Mankato, Minnesota. Below, I’ll give my impressions of the day and my takeaways from a blustery day of padded practice. Enjoy! 

As I stood at the fence outside of U.S. Bank Stadium, I couldn’t help but marvel at the Vikings’ future home. I’d seen pictures of the building, but a picture doesn’t capture the sheer size of the stadium on Bud Grant Way. On my last trip to Minnesota, I visited the Metrodome, and my 10-year-old self left disappointed by the concrete husk of dome. This time, things were much different.

I strapped on my bright yellow vest, buckled my purple hard hat — reminiscent of the Vikings’ current helmets — and pulled my gloves on before stepping through a narrow passage into the stadium. We were the first 100 fans to ever take a tour, and we didn’t care that we looked ridiculous in our fluorescent construction gear.

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Thursday’s an off day for the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings in Mankato, but we’re still on the grind with our man Daniel House (@DanielHouseNFL) of Vikings Corner. He stops in to recap the first week of Vikings Training Camp, show a little love to the nice surprises of camp (Danielle Hunter, MyCole Pruitt, Mike Wallace, Gerald Hodges, and Antone Exum), as well as some of the not so great surprises. (You’ll never guess who…)

All that and other “Is Yankey International?” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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